More than 50% of the science and electronics that I know are self-taught. In fact, all of the electronics that I know I learned on my own. It formed the foundation of my career. Perhaps half of the math I know came the same way. And everything about computers.
I’ve always had this love/hate relationship with schools and education. Public education is important for the building of a democratic society. But so much of the regimentation of schools is off-putting to me. I had 17 years of formal education and the thought of finishing a Ph.D. in the field I was in ceased to be appealing (International Politics–engineering is much better).
Schools, including universities, need to teach reading, written/oral communication, thinking. Maybe throw in creativity. Memorizing all the subject matter stuff—well, that’s important, too, but not so much if you can’t do the other stuff.
Seth Godin recently addressed this idea. And he takes my idea to a whole different level. That’s what he does.
For the longest time, school has been organized around subjects. Fifth graders go to math class and then English class and then geography.
Mostly, those classes don’t teach what they say they teach. Sure, there are some facts, but mostly it’s the methods of instruction that are on offer. School usually has a different flavor than learning.
There was a story about a boy in school staring out the window. The teacher asked, “Little boy, what are you doing?”
“Thinking,” he answered.
“Don’t you know you’re not supposed to think in school,” replied the teacher before realizing the joke in what was said.
Perhaps, instead of organizing school around data acquisition and regurgitation, we could identify what the skills are and separate them out, teaching domain knowledge in conjunctionwith the skill, not the other way around.
It turns out that the typical school spends most of its time on just one of those skills (obedience through comportment and regurgitation).
What would happen if we taught each skill separately?
When I teach people to be soccer referees, it’s only a little about the Laws of the Game. Mostly it’s looking and being professional, making decisions, handling people, managing a game. These are sometimes called “soft skills.” I beg to differ (my favorite phrase in high school!). These are “hard” skills. Hard to learn, hard to master, essential for maturity.
There is an equally critical factor for success in companies: Teams that act as communities, integrating interests and putting aside differences to be individually and collectively obsessed with what’s good for the company. Research shows that when people feel like they are part of a supportive community at work, they are more engaged with their jobs and more productive.
Thus begins the book that you should read next. Trillion Dollar Coach: The Playbook from Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell, by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle. (The three authors were senior leaders at Google / Alphabet–and coached by Bill.)
Bill Campbell’s journey took him from head football coach at Columbia University, to the top sales and marketing job at Apple, to CEO of a couple of technology companies (Intuit and GO). Then he became a coach. He coached Steve Jobs at Apple. The three leaders and then many more at Google. And more than 80 other Silicon Valley CEOs and leaders. And his middle school football team that he coached at the same time.
He was most likely the most influential and respected man in Silicon Valley.
And his values and teaching are appropriate to all of us no matter the organization we’re with.
For example, he let everyone know his blocked time for coaching his football team of 13- and 14-year-olds. He wouldn’t answer his phone if you tried calling. One person, though, would ignore the time and call. Bill would pull his phone out of his pocket and look at the caller ID. The kids around him would look, also. They would see the name Steve Jobs, and then see Bill decline the call. They all knew that when Bill was with them, he was with them.
Read this book–and put the principles into practice in your life. You may not be building the next Google. But you can be the determining influence in someone’s life.
A team developing a Web application named itself Curious George team. You know, the mischievous monkey who was adopted by The Man in the Yellow Hat. Curiosity defined its personality.
I thought, “How cool is that?” A constant reminder to work that particular muscle.
Ever notice little kids? Maybe from 1-1/2 to 4 or so? Take a walk with them. They are curious about everything. They’ll stop and study a leaf. Or a bug. Or a worm.
What about us? When we take a walk, do we puzzle over things we see?
What are you curious about? What would you like to learn?
What a great name for a team exploring new business ideas. Or expanded service ideas.
“I’m on the Curious George team. We’re always exploring for new ideas.”
You become what you think about. (Ancient Wisdom from many traditions.)
We begin a new year leaving behind a tumultuous one. If you were a news junkie, your mind must be close to mush.
I don’t recommend New Year’s Resolutions or any of a variety of goals.
Better is to review last year and decide what new or replaced habits will make me better as a human and contributor this year.
One I suggest if you have not already done it is to go on “news fasts.” Filter your news sources and pare them back. Check news like you would email–just a very few times a day.
Instead fill your mind with new learning and ancient wisdom. Always be learning. Always aware of opportunities coming toward you. Ready to act when opportune.
This way of life has changed me.
What will I learn this year? How will I contribute this year?
Here’s a wish for a good 2019 for you.
I have unleashed another podcast–180 Asking Why.
Asking why? Continuous learning. Helping educate our children. Ideas for solving new problems and developing new business.
Not in the podcast, but in the realm of learning, change agents, asking why, I have been reading Beth Comstock’s book, Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change reflecting on her experiences at GE and NBC. Must read for all of you who are change agents.
Continuous learning is essential for economic survival in this increasingly technological world. However, I believe it is also essential for growth as a human. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in technology and organizational success that we forget that our first duty is to improve ourselves.
Drawing as Thinking
When you take notes or think about a project, what do you write? Do you use pen and paper? Or some sort of notes app or outliner on your computing device?
How about drawing mind maps or sketching ideas? On listening to a recent podcast I jotted this note
Drawing is not an artistic process; it is a thinking process.
Math as Thinking
Reading Peter Diamondis’s newsletter recently, he once again talked about how worthless math was in school—“I have never expanded a polynomial in my life.” I bet he used the logical thinking instilled by working math problems his entire life!
Wishing for Certainty
When I was young I knew old guys who had worked for the same company for many years. There was a certainty about life. I, on the other hand, have never really known that certainty. Here is a thought that once again draws out that idea of clear, logical thinking
The antidote to uncertainty is not certainty—which is impossible—but clarity.
It’s all about passion
Henry Cloud—The fruitfulness of our lives will come from our hearts. Developing our inner selves helps us prioritize our lives. Our hearts will determine the “issues” of our lives.
Your most important resources are time and energy.
Andy Stanley—Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.